drawnonwords - A Writers Tale

My own views, posts, musings, stories and the odd picture for all to enjoy and let others know.

Tag: BBC Page 2 of 3

Sporting Rant … Part 2

Hello Dear Reader

Sporting Rant … Part 2

Well it’s happened again. Sometime ago I wrote a small blog on the loss of sports from the BBC (free-to-air without ads I may add) to either subscription services (pay) or ad related channels.

It appears that after many years back on BBC, F1 has once more been sacrificed due to money. This time, because of outside forces who will all know, the BBC has had to let F1 go. This time it is with another advert laden channel.

Now, they have made claims much like the last lot, that the race will be ad free. I have my doubts, in fact I doubt they understand F1. It is annoying to see good sports disappear like this no matter how good the other side say they will be.

It happened at other times and funny enough not just to sports. Take the Goodies (odd I know) but they went from the BBC to ITV and lasted well not long sadly.

There is not a lot one person can do except to at least voice my concerns. This is not just about F1 now, this is about the careful dismantling of a British icon. Just remember this when you have to start paying to watch anything.

Sadly, F1 will go back a few steps. Maybe it’s time to find another sport before it is ruined as well.

Tagline: “Someone tell them the race started!”

Blake’s 7

Hello Dear Reader,

Blake: A Rebel with a cause.

There are some television series that I can happily watch time and time again. They have a certain magic that never leaves. You do have to look past some of the faults, in fact, some of the inadequacies that grow old over time.

Blake’s 7 is one of those series that is like comfort food, you can just keep watching it. Well, at least it is for me. The series first aired in January 1978 and was billed as an adult sci-fi show. The basis of Blake’s 7 was very straight forward. Roj Blake, the central character, was a resistance leader against the Federation. His family and friends had been murdered as the Federation attempted to quell the resistance. The series had started just after Star Wars so there was a little comparing, however Blake’s 7 was an odd title at first. Who would be the 7? It did have the echoes for me of the Magnificent Seven, a group of ‘guns for hire cowboys’ brought together to beat the bad guys. Blake at the beginning is a pawn of the Federation, who realise that not only has he witnessed the death of other resistance members but his suppressed memories, start to re-awake. The government decide to fabricate charges and Blake is subsequently sentenced to a prison colony on Cygnus Alpha.

Still at the end of episode one we don’t actually have the supposed 7. It takes time to tell the story which is good. They build characters slowly with patient, making you want to be drawn into the plot.  The second episode takes the story on quickly to bring the prisoners together with Blake leading the fight. He recruits four important people, Kerr Avon, Vila Restal, Jenna Stannis and Olag Gan. All them in their various ways realise they have one chance to survive and Blake might be that chance. That chance appears when the prison ship encounters an alien spaceship drifting. Blake, Jenna and Avon are forced to go over to discover what the ship contains. The three of them take over the ship and from Jenna’s thoughts is given a name.

This is when we get introduced to one of the iconic spaceships in sci-fi, the Liberator and it’s computer Zen. Blake manages to rescue Vila and Gan honouring his promise. After a one more episode Cally a telepathic alien joins the crew which makes six. So who is the seventh? Well, it is the ship itself. And so the struggle to break the Federation begins.

Blake’s 7 was created by Terry Nation for the BBC and ran for four series between 1978 and 1981. I was hooked considering it was another sci-fi series to add to Doctor Who and Star Trek. The BBC at that time, had a track record of producing plots which had to work given the limited special effects budget. The first series built on the characters, their struggle with their own freedom and the pursuit of what appears to be an unobtainable goal. There is also an internal battle between Blake and Avon, pushing the others to question what is it all for?

The initial stories were careful crafted, giving each of the characters a chance to develop within their own boundaries. Series one also had two interesting villains Servalan and Space Commander Travis. Servalan had plans to both crush any resistance and to capture the Liberator. Along with Travis, a commander who was ruthless in his methods, they attempted Blake and the Liberator on more than one occasion. However, it does not become the typical week-by-week chase as some series concentrated on. The first series ended on a cliff-hanger, one that gave a rather depressing view.

Naturally there would be a second series which had one shock that many did not expect. Many series place their characters into increasingly dangerous situations until something either has to break or they become immortal. This series pushed that limit and for its time, don’t forget this was the late 70’s, made everyone including the characters stop and think. It was concerning the death of one character. It was not unusual to lose a character but this one was both a main character and the loss was almost meaningless. It was designed to push the characters towards a final goal.

This led to a third series and sadly for me the beginning of Blake’s 7 downward trend. The break-up of the main crew, due to some people wishing to move on, introduced new people but disrupted the natural flow. Also some of the stories were not as polished as the first two series in my view. The acting became a little more confined which did not help the series. The end of the third series also saw the end of one true icon, the Liberator itself. I was not happy with that at all and to be fair the story had too many plot holes. The crew acted without care to the ship, the signs were there they had trouble but just did not seem to care. The fourth series gave the crew a base and another ship, old slow and unreliable. The stories continue the struggle of the growing Federation (again) and now small band of resistance. The fourth series had some merits but for me the damage had been done in series three. It ended at what could be thought of as a confusing point or depressing point. Many speculated that the final episode had at least three outcomes; that it was all set-up, that yes people died and the third option was at one character made it out alive.

Blake’s 7 was a curious series, aimed at adults and teenagers but viewed by many young children as well, given the promotions on BBCs Swop Shop ( that’s who different blog). It averaged 9 million viewers for the firsts series, then dropped to 7 for the second, Oddly enough, it picked up again for the third series to 9 million but drops for the final series to around 8 million. One of the reasons as I said, was the intelligent stories, for the most part. Many of them were written by Doctor Who writers hence the odd cross-over of actors between the two. It was a success for the BBC and another one of those series which has found further success from audio plays. There has been talk of a re-boot, many times. After Battlestar Galactica I was hopeful that this series would get something of a make-over. Imagine the special effects, a ‘proper’ designed bridge, engineering (we never saw that) and a ‘clean’Liberator. It’s a dream.

Many years ago I got the chance to meet almost all of the cast at a convention. It was fun of course and not surprising as to how many still held the show in such fond memories. As I said at the start of this blog, there are some series I can watch time and again. Blake’s 7 is one (apart from series 4) and I have done so over the past few weeks. I do wonder if it would ever be shown again on television maybe one of those repeat channels, there are so many of them.

Tagline: “Down and Safe”.

Thunderbirds at 50

Dear Reader

Thunderbirds are Go!

Imagine the scene, a plane has a bomb onboard, it can’t lower it’s under carriage, it’s running out of time, who can save it?

I don’t know if that was the pitch or what might have been the reaction from a certain Lew Grade, but something worked. So what would happen next? Well, a group of people dedicated to saving life hears what is going on with the airplane and spring into action. Thunderbirds are Go!

Gerry and Silvia Anderson created some of the most exciting childhood memories for me and millions of others. Stingray, Captain Scarlet, Joe 90, UFO and Space:1999 to name but a few. This year Thunderbirds turns 50. It still remains a firm family favourite and that is what they created. Family viewing.

Thunderbirds was about a family, an unusual one I must admit but when you are young you don’t see the odd bits. What I saw was amazing crafts, fantastic stories, brilliant music and stunning effects. The Anderson’s based the family after Mercury Seven astronauts: Scott Carpenter, John Glenn, Virgil Grissom, Gordon Cooper and Alan Shepard. Along with their father Jeff Tracy, Grandma, Brains, Kyrano and Tin-Tin, the boys undertook a variety of rescues each week. The other stars of the show were the five Thunderbird craft, well five main ones.

Thunderbird 1 – a hypersonic rocket plane used for fast response and accident zone reconnaissance. Piloted by primary rescue co-ordinator Scott Tracy.
Thunderbird 2 – a supersonic a carrier aircraft that transports rescue equipment and special vehicles to accident zones in detachable capsules known as “Pods”. Piloted by Virgil.
Thunderbird 3 – a single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft. Piloted alternately by Alan and John, with Scott as co-pilot.
Thunderbird 4 – a utility submersible Piloted by Gordon and normally launched from Thunderbird 2.
Thunderbird 5 – a space station that relays distress calls from around the world. Manned alternately by “Space Monitors” John and Alan.

The very first episode was called ‘Trapped in the Sky’ which aired on 30 September 1965. The plot concerned the master criminal the Hood, who planted a bomb on the hypersonic airliner Fireflash prior to her maiden flight. In its first operation, International Rescue must save the crew and passengers when it is discovered that not only is Fireflash unable to land, but her nuclear reactor will start to leak radiation. In an orbiting space station, John Tracy listens to the calls for help and the ongoing problems, knowing that this is the call International Rescue has been waiting for.

I watched, like many others, this drama unfolding before me. The launch of Thunderbird one was brilliant. To see Scott be transported to his craft the hypersonic TB1 with Barry Grays’ music was mesmerising. Thunderbird one raced to London from it’s secret base but what could this single craft do? That was solved with Thunderbird two, the green giant. It’s launch was just as spectacular if not more so. Thunderbird two was the work-horse of International Rescue (IR) carrying three elevator cars. As the craft arrived on scene, The Hood tried his best to capture the secrets of the Thunderbird craft but he is foiled. However, he escapes with vital pictures, cue the final two characters of this show. Lady Penelope Creighton-Ward (voiced by Sylvia Anderson) and her slightly not so clean-cut butler Aloysius Parker. In the most glamours pink Rolls-Royce, armed with more equipment than James Bond’s DB5, they race to tackle The Hood. Meanwhile the rescue starts to unfold and we get that bit of music. Barry Gray composed the opening march a military theme, he also added the incidental music. There comes a point towards the end of the first episode where we hear that edge of the seat music. It just made the episode (and used in others of course) as you watched Virgil battling to save Fireflash.

It was gripping to my young mind. It was just amazing. I wanted to be in International Rescue, I wanted to pilot those craft. It was FAB! And with that word is one of enduring mysteries of this success. Actually, it was F.A.B, and no one knew or so I believe, knows what it stood for. The show was FAB, but F.A.B was spoken by the Tracy brothers as a response. Many have tried to explain it but nothin seems to fit.

There were 32, one hour episodes and two feature films both of which did not fair as well as they should. Yet, Thunderbirds appears to keep that magic each time it is shown. When the BBC decided to show the episodes back in 1991 it created another massive interest. This time there was an addition, Tracy Island as a model. It sold so well, that Blue Peter showed children how build their own. That was the magic that many shows failed to find.

It is possible the reason for its enduring success is that the show had something of a real feel to it. In fact Gerry Anderson drew inspiration for the series’ concept from the West German mining disaster known as the Wunder von Lengede (“Miracle of Lengede”). In October 1963, the collapse of a nearby dam flooded an iron mine, killing 29 miners and trapping 21 others underground. Lacking the means to drill an escape shaft, the authorities were forced to requisition a heavy-duty bore from Bermen. However it took considerable time to ship the device by rail and that had significantly reduced the chances of a successful rescue. Anderson recognised the advantages of swifter crisis response, and conceived the idea of an “international rescue” organisation. Thus was born Thunderbirds are Go.

There have been a number of re-imaginations of Thunderbirds none of which seem to capture the original. However, for its 50th anniversary a group decided to go back to its roots. Three 15 minute records are to be made into films. The Kickstarter project gained enough money to reproduce the sets, the craft, puppets and all. In December, I will look forward to what promises to be something special. That hint of what really can be achieved.

Thunderbirds are Go showed what a dedicated group could do. One day, maybe the puppets will find their real voice. After all it only takes one man to start it all.

Tagline: “F.A.B Scott… Keep this frequency clear” (Cue the clip Thunderbirds are Go!)

Sporting Rant

Hello Dear Reader

Sporting Rant.

I must warn you that these are all my own thoughts.

In the past few months and weeks, there have been a number of high-profile changes to televised sporting events. The last most notable one was the Open golf championship, held here in the UK. This has moved from the BBC (free-to-air) to pay-per-view.

Why? It is certainly not for coverage these days as free-to-air reach as many homes as cable and satellite, I would argue. Given the advances in televisions, set-top boxes and the interweb, you no longer need the old fashioned ariel to see these channels. There can be only one motivation in my view, money.

Now we hear that one of my most enjoyed competitions, the rugby union 6 Nations is to be split between BBC and ITV. This,they say is a good thing. No it is not. Not for me anyway, The last time ITV took over one of my favoured sports was F1. That was a disaster given the so-called conditions they claimed they would show F1. ITV cannot exist without advert breaks, hence F1, a live moving, changing sport, would come complete with advert breaks. However, they would be sensitive to the action, make sure you never missed anything and be better than the Beeb. What rubbish. There was one notorious moment when in the British Grand Prix of all places, Hill was about to overtake Schumacher. It was amazing driving, wheel-to-wheel, Hill was fighting to get past, you could his front tyres level with Schumacher’s rear. Then he was almost level, the left hand of corner coming up, Hill would take the lead or they would crash or the box for soap power would make clothes all cleaner?

I sat there for seconds thinking I had changed channel, what was I doing? But no, ITV had gone to an advert break because it was half past the hour and no make what the advert break had to come before the amazing action. It took me almost an hour to get through to ITV to explain to a very fed-up sounding person, how the idiots had been allowed to ruin the race. Not only did they cut at the action point but they rejoined at a point where clearly Hill had finished his move and was well clear. They lied. At no point did they ‘freeze’ the action and come back as though we missed nothing. F1 went into the dustbin for me.

This is why I am so against ITV with my favoured sports. Currently, highlights of Premier Rugby Union (once on BBC 2 Sunday evening) can now be found, well only if you really really look, somewhere on an ITV channel at midnight or 1am.

At a time when we need to get people into sport, when people need to enjoy sport or just have something to look forward to rather than soaps, why does this country allow the removal of sports from good broadcasters? Don’t forget, the BBC showed paralympic long before channel 4 did. Their coverage of the London games was poor in many places.  They missed 90% of the marathon just about, they missed a gold medal archery match between two, TWO, Brits. BBC did a far better coverage. Now the Olympics is under threat and guess who will clearly want to bid.

We need money in sports, but not at the expense of good coverage to boost interest in the young. Cricket, now almost gone from free-to-air often struggles to get people into grounds. Golf, may well suffer the same fate as less will see it. Many years ago, the RFU had all the England 6 Nation matches on Sky for one year. It nearly cost them more than just a few pennies.

There needs to be a change in how free-to-air is financed in order to keep sporting interests alive. Remember when athletics went to ITV, they disappeared and nothing from overseas was shown. However,the BBC (again) brought coverage from the overseas meetings.  I wonder if interest went down in the sports then? Like wise, when the BBC showed the Olympics in my sport, archery, numbers went up. Maybe that is just to simple. There is in some countries what is called the ‘Crown Jewels’, those sports that must remain free-to-air. It is said by Sky and BT that they have enhanced certain sports by taking them away from free-to-air, but for me at what cost. You can read more of this at the BBC here; http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/football/33357440

So now I have to consider watching England rugby 6 Nations matches with adverts and annoying bits. Humm.

Tagline: ‘Can someone tell them the match started’

Day of the Doctor

Dear Reader

Day of the Doctor.IMG_0913

This may seem like a very old review of the 50th anniversary episode, no, it’s all about my visit to the BBC Doctor Who experience. I have been a fan of the program since I can remember. I have one memory which I hope never fades. One summer when I was 5, we visited Blackpool for a holiday. Nothing unusual there one might say. However, I was not expecting three surprises, first was to see my Granddad, second was to be given Thunderbird 5 and third was to visit the Tower Ballroom to see Doctor Who. Now, remember that at 5 years old, believing in fantasy was very easy. There came a point when the children could go on to the floor and just run around as you do. We had seen the start of the show, there was a barrier between us and the Daleks and all. Imagine the feeling when a Dalek, a full-sized moving Dalek, headed towards you to clear the floor. Trust me, it felt real and I managed some how to clear that barrier right into my Granddad’s arms.

So years roll by and yes I went to see various other exhibitions of Doctor Who. They had costumes, props and video clips. It was good but always short. Each one did very well. But Doctor Who needed something more. When the show came back 10 years ago (10 years already) there was a renewed spark. Somewhere in the BBC, the idea must have been discussed and in Cardiff a building started.

I read all about the exhibition and it looked very well put together. Finally, I decided I had to visit. Close to my birthday and heading to one of my favourite writing locations. St Ives (hence the new blog) I drove down to the big blue building. Was that planned for it to be blue in places? I don’t know.

The exhibition is also an experience and it is very good fun, well put together and yes you do get to be inside the Tardis. I won’t say what happens but its fun. What is amazing to see is the detail of the sets and costumes that are on display. The place is big. You get to see at least 4 Tardis control rooms, one original recreation from Hartnell’s days, moving through time to the episode Rose. There are a huge array of costumes, let alone the old enemy, the Daleks. I was half expecting one to move, just to remind me that they had not forgotten Blackpool.

The other good part of the exhibition was photos. You could take as many as you wanted and I did. A couple are here of course and many more elsewhere. Those are your own memories, how you want to take a little of Doctor Who home with you.

Many people will ask, ‘Is it worth it?’ and my answer is yes. If you are a Doctor Who fan, go. Don’t forget, there is also a shop. I enjoyed my visit and yes I would go again with friends to see how they would enjoy the experience. One last point, the staff who run the place are a credit. Very friendly, very pleasing to see people who enjoy where they work.

IMG_0912Tagline: “Who is in that blue box over there?”

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